Panama Canal allowing longer ships to transit neo-Panamax locks


(PANAMA CITY, Panama) — Ahead of the fifth anniversary of its expansion, the Panama Canal has increased the maximum allowable length for vessels transiting the neo-Panamax locks. Since May 21, the maximum length overall (LOA) for commercial and non-commercial vessels acceptable for regular transits of the neo-Panamax locks is 1,215 feet, up from 1,205 feet.

The increase means that 96.8 percent of the world’s fleet of containerships can now transit the canal, shortening routes and benefiting economies around the world.

“This change was made possible by our team’s experience operating the neo-Panamax locks safely and reliably over the past five years,” said Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vasquez Morales.

Panama Canal Authority photo

The extended LOA will provide shipping lines with greater flexibility in making decisions for the deployment and construction of vessels with greater capacity that can transit the canal.

The announcement comes after a series of trial transits to confirm the safety of operations. They included the 2019 transit of Evergreen’s 1,210-foot Triton, which became the largest vessel in dimension and container cargo capacity to transit the canal since the inauguration of the neo-Panamax locks in June 2016. Since then, other ships with the same dimensions and container cargo capacity have also transited the waterway, including Talos and Theseus.

In addition to this increased length overall, the canal has announced that it is now offering a 50-foot draft, the highest level allowed at the waterway. Increased rainfall and successful water management at Gatun Lake had kept the draft at 49 feet since April 2021.

The Panama Canal’s efforts go beyond its operational updates. Given the shorter traveling distance and larger capacity it offers, the canal reduces vessels’ fuel consumption and therefore emissions, having a positive impact on the reduction of global greenhouse gases compared to other routes. In addition, the canal is focused in reducing its own carbon footprint, establishing a road map to become a carbon-neutral entity by the end of the decade, while maintaining its commitment to participate in environmental efforts in the maritime industry worldwide.

– Panama Canal Authority

By Professional Mariner Staff